Several bloggers (Carl Tyler, vowe, Brian Benz and others) seem to have created or picked up a meme over the weekend that there's dwindling business for independent Notes/Domino or IBM Workplace consulting, and that therefore these products are in market decline (on the Notes side) or lacking demand (on the Workplace side).
Volker Weber:

IBM has scared customers by making too much noise about unproven technology.
Carl Tyler, in reference to people like Rocky taking permanent gigs instead of consulting:
I keep hearing of people leaving their Domino consulting companies to go back to full time work somewhere.
Brian Benz offers some balance:
I for one still work with Domino every day, among other things, but decided that it was in my best interest to give up my consulting "company" (just me anyway) and take a full-time position at a organization here in Las Vegas.  I miss some aspects of consulting, but life is more stable now.  I'm sure a lot of talented people were in my situation, or worse, who moved away from the Notes and Domino world, never to return.

In the end the technology needs people to make it go, or the community just caves in like an unoccupied house.  Some of the damage done during those dark days is simply irreparable.  I hope lessons were learned at IBM, but I'm not so sure.  I worry that some people who should have been very publicly fired for the damage they caused to the market over the regrettable things they did and said still hold prominent positions of power at IBM, and could still do some damage (Why, oh why, couldn't Microsoft lure THEM away?)
So, here's my take:
  • The Notes/Domino product line exist in a mature market.  There are already 60,000 companies running this infrastructure -- meaning, there have been tens of thousands of consulting contracts in the past to architect and deploy those environments.  Now that the growth rate is slower -- a few thousand new companies per year -- there are fewer architecture/implementation contracts.  Also, Notes/Domino 6.x has been out for more than 2.5 years, and the vast majority of Notes customers have upgraded (though I painfully watched someone using Notes R5 on a flight back from Texas last week...).  Companies are still building/deploying new Notes applications, but the rate and pace of overall IT investment has slowed across the board -- not just in Notes applications.  Even with all those factors, there are plenty of consultancies indicating that they are flush with work.  I suspect they are the ones that are too busy to have commented on blog threads over a weekend :)
  • The individual decisions of people like Rocky and Brian and others to seek permanent positions reflects individual choice -- not necessarily a trend, especially given how some of these high-profile members of the Lotus community ended up in their new situations.
  • The IBM Workplace market is still emerging.  Workplace Designer hasn't shipped yet.  The 2.5 unified Collaborative Services release is coming soon, but not out yet.  There is still maturing to be done here.  There is already market opportunity, though.  IBM has hundreds of partners working with the Workplace platform already, and a large number of customers in proof-of-concept, pilot, or deployment.  The (internal only, sorry) status reports I receive weekly tell me exactly who is doing what with Workplace -- and some of it is really exciting stuff.  I think you'll see more through 2005 and beyond.  To be clear, this is a more nascent market and platform -- and the ramp-up is necessarily long for both technology and market maturity.  I think 2.5's imminent release will renew and create interest in the Workplace back-end -- especially as the Workplace Managed Client becomes tighter with Notes 7 and beyond.
My blogdigger RSS feeds show me new Notes/Domino jobs in the US almost every single day, from Sparks, Nevada to Hopewell, New Jersey.  I think there are other geographies with similar demand.  The Workplace back-end isn't there yet, but with the kind of efforts IBM is putting into building the product family, I believe it will be, soon.

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